No one wants to get a call or a letter from the IRS, but DON’T PANIC!
If the contact is via email, it’s fraudulent
Do not respond to the email or click on any links in it. This is an attempt to steal your personal information. Forward the message to firstname.lastname@example.org, then delete the original email.
The IRS will never make initial contact by phone
The agency will contact you initially via postal mail. However, even if you have already had legitimate contact with the IRS, do not assume that a phone call is legitimate. There are many scams out there. Even if the caller ID has a Washington, D.C., area code (202) or says “Internal Revenue Service,” do not provide the caller with any information. Say you cannot talk now and will call back shortly. Ask for a name and badge number. Then call the IRS directly using the phone number provided on IRS.gov: (800) 366-4484. Only then will you be able to determine if the call was legitimate.
It is also important to understand that the IRS will not threaten arrest you, so any communication stating otherwise is fraudulent. Some people who intentionally commit tax fraud and evasion by purposefully lying to the IRS, underpaying the tax they owe or failing to file a tax return do eventually end up in jail after repeatedly refusing to cooperate with the IRS. However, ordinary taxpayers who have simply made a mistake on their return are not at risk of going to jail.
If the contact is via text message, it’s fraudulent
As with an email, you should not reply, open any attachments or click on any links in the message. Instead, forward the text to the IRS at (202) 552-1226. If possible, send the IRS a second message with the number from which the fraudulent text originated, then delete the message.
If the contact is via postal mail, it may or may not be legitimate
There have been fraudulent IRS notices sent via mail. The IRS uses form CP2000 to inform taxpayers of proposed IRS adjustments to their returns. These notices are challenging to authenticate, but it can be done. Here are a few clues to help you discriminate: fake CP2000 forms have an illegitimate IRS address; they ask the taxpayer to make the check payable to the IRS rather than the United States Treasury (which is how you make out a check to the genuine IRS); they instruct the taxpayer to send payment immediately and dispute it later. The real IRS allows taxpayers to dispute claims of unpaid taxes first and pay after an agreement is reached.
DO NOT ASSUME that an IRS letter requesting payment or personal information is legitimate. Instead, go to IRS.gov and search for the relevant notice or form number and read the IRS’s page “Understanding Your IRS Notice or Letter.” You can also call the IRS directly at (800) 829-1040 to inquire about a letter’s legitimacy.